Thursday, May 27, 2010

Race weight

Apparently I'm back at that mysterious thing known as "race weight"... I've been turning ski muscles into bike muscle and losing a few pounds of winter beer fat since getting back on the bike in mid-March, but finally, three days in a row my $7 scale has proclaimed I'm at last year's cross race weight.  And I'm not even dehydrated. 

This begs the question - am I aiming too high - or is it low?  It was easier to get where I was headed this year - perhaps the 10lb head start helped or maybe just knowing how it worked last year... but it gets me to thinking, should I revise my target race weight to no longer include the last bit of belly roll that seems to be part of getting older? 

Of course, I celebrated by declaring it a muffin morning.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On the sharp end

In climbing, they say you're on the sharp end when you're on lead - for you non-climbers out there, it means you're taking the rope up with you and placing anchors every so often in case you fall.  It's totally different than top-roping, where the rope is already up there.  Mainly, if you fall on lead, you fall twice as far as the distance you are above your last piece of protection (assuming that piece holds).

Last night I was out at the Tuesday night time trial busting my legs and lungs on some good old Baltimore County hills.  I've decided that time trialing, while not my favorite, is cool in that it has the same solo effort aspects as most XC mountain bike races.  A little like being on the sharp end of a rope - success or failure is measurable and true success requires constant attention and effort.  Well, and there's no drafting, so technically you're on the sharp end the whole time. So I guess you've gotta learn to enjoy the burn.

I still like it more when there's dirt under my tires, but it was a good training ride.  I beat my personal best from last year by 3:51 - made the 14.2 mile trek in 48:18.  Some of that is new wheels, new bike, no wind, but perhaps having a coach and a structured training plan is working too.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I can't make this stuff up!

Two days after my run in with a small blur of fur, I was out on the road in rural Pennsylvania yesterday.  Just riding along on some of the flattest, quietest roads I've found anywhere.  Young colts in the pastures, kicking and playing at the sight of a cyclist.  A farmer or two who turn their heads and wave.  Free range chickens, the smell of turkey farms, baby goats in a field, cows with udders full of milk.  And an emu.  In the middle of the road.

Yeah, that's right, an emu.  A white emu at that.  With spindly legs and big beady eyes. It didn't like the looks of me - it stumbled through some bushes on the side of the road and high-tailed it across a recently planted corn field.  Apparently it had escaped a local farm - glad I didn't have to catch it because those buggers can run.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It was just a small blur of fur

File this one under - what are the chances?  I've heard of people hitting deer before.  One woman I met even had the unfortunate coincidence of being under a falling tree while on her bike.  But a small blur of fur?

The story
Mile 30ish of 35 on Thursday's training ride on the new bike.  On the road in Hunt Valley, coasting downhill.  I'll guess 25 mph - none of my bikes have computers on them right now.  Out of my peripheral vision, a blur of fur comes running and/or rolling from the woods on my right, between my wheels and out the other side.  Somewhere in there it touched my left ankle with some part of its body.

I was a bit freaked out but managed to keep the rubber side down and my blood pressure returned to normal in a few minutes.  But when I looked down, there was blood running down my ankle.  Said small blur of fur was long gone by this point... I think it was a squirrel....

But how sure was I?  And what part of it had touched me enough to scratch me - you know, like when you nick yourself shaving kind of scratch.  One that doesn't hurt but bleeds a bit more than you like.

So I scrubbed it out when I got home and called around Friday morning to find out about rabies exposure.  Since rabies is pretty much 100% fatal in humans, I wanted to check, ya know.

Aside: rabies is still a problem in developing countries where pets, mostly dogs, are not routinely vaccinated.  40,000-70,000 people per year die worldwide from rabies.

Finally I happened upon the Health Department who were most helpful.  He asked how sure I was it was a squirrel?  Well, I don't know, I said.  What else could it have been?  A baby raccoon... hmm, well, maybe I'm not so sure it was a squirrel.

It wasn't a rock.  It wasn't a groundhog.  It wasn't laying dead in the road for a second look, either.

The helpful health department guy says, well, your chances of rabies exposure are pretty minimal here, but whether you go get the shots is up to you.  Oh, and here's your case number, "sorry about this, but it's 666."

I'm not a superstitious person, but long story short, yesterday afternoon was a trip to the ER for round 1 of rabies vaccination series.  Nothing like having 4cc's or so of immunoglobulin injected in and around your achilles.

The morals
  1. Call the Health Department. They know how many rabid animals of what species are found in the area.  And they have a clue.  And they are nice.
  2. Know what kind of animal you encountered.  Squirrels and other rodents (except groundhogs) apparently don't usually carry rabies.  Raccoons are another story.  Disclaimer: this information is local to my area and the Health dept.'s recommendations.  See moral 1.
  3. Try to figure out whether you've got a scratch or a bite. 
  4. You can only get round 1 of a rabies vaccine series at the ER.  Doesn't matter how many places you call.  They will all send you to the ER.
  5. It was pretty cool to meet cyclists along my rabies information and vaccine hunt.  The PA who treated me at the ER is a triathlete.  The guy at the health department rode his bike to work today.  Both understood why it was I might not have actually seen what happened, given that I was more focused on staying rubber side down.  And that I would have been a much bigger mess if I had come in covered in road rash.
  6. Baltimore city ER's have lots of cops.  And patients handcuffed to the beds.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Are you racing Sunday?

I'm not.  But I have been asked this a few times in the past week while out on road rides.  Apparently I am now looking fast enough to be a roadie - at first glance anyway.

I attribute this to one or all of the following:
1.  The KBS Kelly Cup/BikeJam is this Sunday in Baltimore.  No, I'm not racing.  But, since I ride for the KBS club team, I can see the connection.
2.  My shoes are too clean.  I desoled my Sidis a couple weeks ago.  The new ones came in last weekend, but I actually haven't been on dirt since then, so they are still pretty black.
3.  My bike is too clean.  I know how to fix that.
4.  My bike is so shiny that they can't see the caliper brakes, top tube cabling, clearance for shouldering and mud tires, etc all of which suggest it's actually a cross bike with a roadie mask on.
5.  I'm spinning so fast that I look like I'm going fast.  Having a 12-27 cassette for cross gearing helps spin fast while not going fast.
6.  Perhaps men just like to check out women dressed in spandex and this week's Guys guides to picking up cyclist chicks says "Ask her if she's racing Sunday.  The get out the cowbells and stay for the women's race."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Meet my new ride

Apparently there is a trend this week - it seems everyone is getting new bikes.  Including me.  A new cross race bike to go with my upgrade.

Here she is:

Pretty, eh?  Yeah, there's some bling.
A preliminary weight analysis says she's almost exactly 17lbs - a weight that will change just a bit with a seatpost swap, changeover to cross tires and switching out the 34/50 chainrings for better cross gearing - 36/42.

We went out on the road yesterday for hill repeats.  She's way fast, but confusing.  Why you say?  Well, turns out that I don't have a clue how doubletap shifters work.  Especially the front one.  I think I'm getting it figured out, but that wasn't before sitting at the bottom of a hill going in circles to figure out the shift to a gear suitable for climbing and still not being sure how I achieved it. 

Definitely more shouldering clearance for cross, but the geometry for shouldering means I'll adjust my carry a bit.  This means you should look for bruises in different places this year...

As built for the geeks who care:
  • Santa Cruz Stigmata aluminum frame with Alpha Q Carbon Fork
  • TRP EuroX Magnesium Brakes
  • SRAM Force shifters, derailleurs, and cranks
  • Chris King headset, 3T Carbon Bars
  • Shimano RS80 clincher wheels (these are not new but are my race wheels from last year - I know the bike is responsive - I can tell the rear wheel needs to be trued)

Love Jes and Kent at Gettysburg bikes... they even let me get in the way to "help" with the build.  I can't recommend these guys highly enough to anyone - that's where I send my mom (seriously! and probably that's a story for another day...)

Now I've just gotta live up to my ride. :-)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Muffin morning

Friday's are muffin days.  Usually a rest day or an easy day for me... I walk by the Common Ground for a muffin every Friday.  Usually Shea comes with me, the puppies get to sniff the muffin bag and confirm that my blackberry-granola muffin is in there.  He'll get some weird jalepeno bagel thing.  I usually finish most of the jinormous muffin before getting to work.  This morning I was running late and Shea wasn't along, but I was still bent on getting a muffin.  Apple.  Gotta say I like the blackberry-granola better, but I just couldn't do a multi-berry scone on muffin morning. 

Especially since next Friday won't be a muffin morning... it's Bike to Work Day!  I'll ride about 1.5 miles to the rally to show my support for commuting on skinny tires and get my free t-shirt and bagel. Then I'll spin the half mile back to work.  Probably on the singlespeed.  It's geared for mountain biking anyway.  Still, the tires are skinnier than my car.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

20 miles of michaux... without the rain!

I've been riding, racing, working, training, and generally enjoying life so much lately that I haven't been blogging much.  But I promised myself when I started it that this blog isn't really about other people reading it... it's about reflecting on my experiences and races, thinking, feeling, remembering...

Last weekend was the Michaux Maximus race.  Last year, it was a mud fest.  In the rain.  Cold rain.  It was one of the two times I can ever remember considering putting my bike on the side of the trail and leaving it there.  The best and pretty much only good part of that day was rolling in and seeing that Shea had won the 10-miler overall.

This year was WAY better.  Weather was perfect - a bit misty at times, overcast, and warm.  Trails were perfect.  A great field of 9 women showed up for the 20 mile race - including a few local expert riders.  Michaux is a little different in that instead of Beginner/Sport/Expert categories, they go by distance.  There's an unspoken rule that Expert racers don't race the 10 mile race, but other than that, people do what they want. 

My goal was to ride, just ride it, finish it, ride smart in the technical sections (okay, so at Michaux that's pretty much everything except a couple miles of fire road).  I definitely wound up at race pace for most of the race, with an overall average heart rate near what I've put out at other races this year.  Even better - I finished the first 10 miles nearly an hour faster than last year and came in well under my soft goal of 4 hours, partly because they cut out a tough section at the end.

Here's the thing - it was a blast.  A total fun day. Early on, a guy was on my wheel and commented that "that 29er just takes off downhill" - I don't always do the Superfly justice, but I love gravity.  I rode with a teammate Phil for a few minutes until he crashed and then got a branch stuck all in about 5 minutes and had to slow down for a bit. I passed some guys while we were hike-a-biking uphill. I passed a few hike-a-biking while I was still riding (!). 

About 15 miles in, I found some guys, including a Winchester Wheelman or two that were happy hanging on my wheel and with my pace.  That makes me ride faster but within myself.  I was surprised to see a few of the guys I'd been back and forth with stop at the aid station about 3 miles from the finish.  I had plenty of Heed in my camelbak still and wanted to keep rolling.  Turns out it was 3 miles uphill, but all fire road - I still had a bit left in the tank when I saw the sign for the turn to the finish.  I'd been thinking I was in for some more tough singletrack.  I was thrilled to finish. 

Truly thrilled - like tears in my eyes as silly as that is.  I finished in under 3 hours to wind up in 4th!  One of the really strong riders wound up DNF'ing with a busted derailleur, so that was pretty much middle of the pack and happy with it.

I was sore for a while.  Not as sore as I am after this weekend's adventures, but definitely fatigued.